Observations and inanities by a second-shift assistant supervisor in the Puppy-Grinding division of the Evil Atheist Conspiracy® (our motto: "Sure it's cruel, but think of the jobs!"), your host, Brent Rasmussen.
So, there's good news, and there's bad news.
Depending on your perspective, you can decide which is which.
On the one hand, I recently heard that it's likely that my SF novel will be published this year. I still have some minor work to do on it before everything is finalized, but the publisher and editor are both very excited about the book. For me, anyway, that's very good news. And with luck, it will be the entry into the publication of several books I am working on (at one stage or another).
On the other hand, the time has come to say goodnight here at UTI.
All things have a natural cycle, a story arc which makes sense. When I first found UTI seven or eight years ago, I was thrilled to discover like-minded rationalists and skeptics who saw the world with something of the same twist that I do. When the opportunity came to join the regular writers here, I was flattered and honored that Brent considered me. I have tried to maintain the same high level of writing and snarky observations on the human condition, sometimes successfully and sometimes less so.
But it is time to move on.
We've all seen or heard some version of this: the accusation that, as atheists, we "hate God." It can come from just about any flavor of believer - Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Mormon. Though I suppose the Scientologists are exempt. Make it into a plural "the Gods" and it would probably apply to Hinduism, and most of the older religions that have since passed from favor over the centuries. I can picture one Roman senator accusing another of bringing the empire down because he wasn't sacrificing enough to the Gods, due to a lack of love and honor. And you might be next on the chopping block on the Pyramid of the Moon for ol' Huitzilopochtli if you weren't sufficiently bloodthirsty. But that's OK, you could star in Mel Gibson's movie, either way.
Anyway, the notion that atheists "hate God" has always struck me as being very insightful. No, no, not into our motivations or beliefs. Into the minds of the believers.
Christopher Hitchens, Archbishop John Onaiyekan, Stephen Fry and Anne Widdencombe, and mix?
It's the "Intelligence Squared" debate, which was held before a live audience in London this past weekend.
It's quite good, actually - and worth watching the whole thing. All four participants do a good job in presenting their position on whether or not the Catholic Church is a "force for good in the world."
What I found was telling was that at the start of the program, a survey was taken of the audience. About 35% said that the Church was a force for good, 55% said that it wasn't, and the rest were undecided. After the debate was over, the numbers were 13% yes, 86% no, with just a handful still undecided.
My mother is a great believer in forwarding emails of the Republican or Christian variety. I've seen most of them before, and generally I don't respond. Eh. My mom is awesome, but a little far right politically and religiously at this point in her life - and I'm too damned tired to start a war. Heh.
But when she forwarded this essay (quoted in it's entirety below the fold), and claimed it was written by our own curmudgeonly atheist Andy Rooney, I had to reply:
This was actually written by a sports writer by the name of Nick Gholson who worked for the "Times New Record" newspaper in Wichita Falls, Texas, back in 1999, NOT Andy Rooney. Andy Rooney is actually an atheist!
"Why am I an atheist? I ask you: Why is anybody not an atheist? Everyone starts out being an atheist. No one is born with belief in anything. Infants are atheists until they are indoctrinated. I resent anyone pushing their religion on me. I don't push my atheism on anybody else. Live and let live. Not many people practice that when it comes to religion." -Andy Rooney, Boston Globe, May 30, 1982.
"I am an atheist... I don't understand religion at all. I'm sure I'll offend a lot of people by saying this, but I think it's all nonsense." -Andy Rooney, from a speech at Tufts University, Nov. 18, 2004.
And as for agreeing with Gholson's essay below, obviously I don't. I think it's a pretty desperate argument to claim that "might makes right" like Gholson does here - especially in America! Adult Americans don't usually agree or use petty, childish, playground arguments like that. We usually stand up for the little guy, don't we? Defend those who need defending? We say, "I disagree with what you say, but I would die defending your right to say it!" Right??
Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are designed to counteract the sort of "tyranny of the majority" that Gholson is promoting, and to protect the rights of the minority from being trampled by all the frothing "Christian Nation" kooks in the majority who want to have MY kids pray to THEIR god in public schools paid for by my taxes. You can say your prayers any time you want - on the street corner, in church, in your home, heck, even at a football game! What you *can't* do is have public school officials lead *my* children in saying *your* prayers to *your* god, to the exclusion of all other religions, or non-religion - and then expect me to pay for the privilege!
Argh! It drives me nuts! :)
I love you Ma, and I'm really not trying to make you upset, but I think you're 180 degrees off-center on this issue. I hope you'll reconsider your position.
Ugh. I hate writing to my family about this stuff. It's going to make the holidays interesting, in any case! :)
The Lodi City Council has apparently "found their backbone" and has voted unanimously to allow sectarian prayers before City Council meetings in direct opposition to threats of legal action against the City of Lodi by civil rights groups concerned over the clear violations against the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause.
So, let's look forward in time a few months. Lodi's City Council has been rolling along offering prayers in Jesus' name for a while now. They knew that this meant - in an abstract way of course - that they may at some point have to allow a non-Christian prayer before the start of the meeting. So, a Mormon Bishop is allowed to pray. Then, a Rabbi. Finally, after much deliberation, an Imam offers a prayer to Allah.
People are tense, but things go well, and the sky doesn't split apart, so they try their best to forget it ever happened, while simultaneously patting themselves on the back for their "tolerance".
Then things start to go awry.
A Raëlian Priest, or "Guide" basically forces his way to the front of the meeting, ranting about God knows what. The Master at Arms throws him out, and the City Council members all have a nervous chuckle.
A Wiccan applies to lead the Council in a skyclad ceremony. The Council members look it up and deny the application.
A Pastafarian wants to dress and talk like a pirate while holding a delicious plate of spaghetti. Denied.
A Jedi Knight wants to have everyone close the blast shield and try to "feel the force". Denied.
Suddenly, a rain of lawsuits alleging First Amendment violations descend onto the City. Religious persecution accusations are flying thick. The Council members decide that the very next wacky non-Christian nutball who applies to lead a prayer, they'll approve.
A Church of Satan Magister applies. They swallow, and approve the application.
The day comes, and all nervously await the Magister as he sweeps into the chambers. The lights dim, and with eerily glowing eyes he begins the blasphemous words for a Black Mass:
"Thou, thou who, in my capacity of Priest, I force, weather thou wilt or no, to descend into this host, to incarnate thyself into this bread Jesus, artisan of hoaxes, bandit of homages, robber of affection- hear! O lasting foulness of Bethlehem, we would have thee confess thy impudent cheats, thy inexplicable crimes!. We would drive deeper the nails into thy hands, press down the crown of thorns upon thy brow, and bring blood from the dry wounds.
Cursed Nazarene, abstractor of stupid parities, impotent king, fugitive god! O Infernal Satanic Majesty, condemn him to the pit, evermore to suffer in perpetual anguish. Bring Thy wrath upon him, O Prince of Darkness, King of Filth, Emperor of Putridity, Dark Lord Satan, hear our demands!"
Cue the lightning and fog machines and wolf howl special effects.
People freak the fuck out, cats and dogs start living together, chaos ensues, council members start raping goats right in the chambers, pregnant Christian ladies give birth to deformed monsters.
You know, the usual.
And atheists sit back and laugh. "Look," we'd say with a chuckle, "we fucking warned you morons about this six months ago! Now, grow the fuck up, stop breaking the law, and try following the Constitution. Make the council meetings secular, idiots, and pray in your own fucking church, and this won't happen ever again."
(Maybe not in those exact words... Heh.)
Back in may of 2007 I wrote an open letter to Amber Heard asking her to please consider being the spokesmodel for atheism, due to the general mud-duck nature of all of us smelly, run-of-the-mill internet atheists. (Before anyone gets indignant, I said run-of-the-mill internet atheists like me, not you beautiful, unique atheist snowflakes. Heh.)
Well, our lovely Amber is back in the news this week in a men.style.com feature talking about her acting career, her .357, and her atheism.
You can probably understand why us UTI guys are all fluttery around her. Beautiful girls who like guns and atheism? Up until Amber appeared on the scene, I knew exactly one. My wife, Mrs. Inscrutable. (Hi honey!)
[link] Heard grew up equally headstrong in Austin, Texas, more interested in reading Henry Miller and Ayn Rand than in sitting through Bible study with her Catholic-school classmates. She is now a devout atheist. "I did what I needed to do to be independent," she says after Pistol allows us to settle at a shady picnic table. "I never felt like I was telling the truth when I prayed. When you're growing up and one thing is cool and admired and another is distasteful, where does that put you if you side with the latter? It put me . . . out."
Pretty cool. I wish you the very best in your career, Amber. I know you'll do great!
Yup. No longer do you have to stand by and watch as the religious leaders fleece their flocks. You don't have to shake your head as the poor suckers hand over their hard-earned cash for "prayer rugs".
You, too, can cash in on the gullibility of the religious crazies - and the best thing about it is that you can do so in a completely above-board and honest fashion, maintaining your dignity and identity as an atheist.
By promising to save their pets when the rapture comes:
You've committed your life to Jesus. You know you're saved. But when the Rapture comes what's to become of your loving pets who are left behind? Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.
We are a group of dedicated animal lovers, and atheists. Each Eternal Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you've received your reward. Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus.
I was recently in a neighboring town, about 15 miles away from my little town, doing some business with the local irrigation collective. I decided to stop and eat at one of the lunch cafes instead of driving all the way back. [Hey, I was hungry! :)]
In any case, I chose a small coffee shop/cafe, and entered. It was pretty full, but seemed OK, and there was one table open in the back where I could set up my laptop and work while I waited for my meal. So, I sat down and opened the menu and was surprised to see not food on the first page of the menu, but bible verses. There was also a bible verse collage in one of those plastic table-stand deals that they usually display the lunch special in.
I was a little uncomfortable, but decided I'd stay and eat anyway. The sandwiches looked pretty good.
So, about ten minutes go by and no waitress. I mean, she's there, flying around between all the tables, but she has yet to stop and even ask me if I wanted coffee. I take another look at the multitude of bible verses staring me in the face, then at the waitress who is now obviously trying NOT to even make eye contact with me, and decide that I'll walk next door to the calzone place and try that instead.
I close my laptop -- and realize that I've got a red Out Campaign 'A' sticker dead-center where a computer logo should be. I had forgotten all about it.
Shaking my head and smiling a bit, I walked out through the front. The girl behind the register, who had not seen me yet since I came in through the side entrance, said brightly, "Hope you enjoyed your lunch!".
"Never got one," I said, and walked through the door, across the little parking lot, and into the restaurant next door where a delightfully profane Italian chef made me the best calzone I've had in a long, long while.
My point? We can indeed "formally" fight for our civil rights all we want. However, like the "whites only" lunch counters of the last century, it'll take a long, long time before regular religious folks accept us without us having to pretend to be something we're not.
(Tip of the ballcap to VJack at Atheist Revolution.)
Gee, this is *so* surprising:
Atheist advertising signs on Des Moines Area Regional Transit buses that created a storm of controversy when they first went up on Aug. 1 have been taken down.
And what did these offensive, despicable, inflammatory advertisements say? Did they mock the absurdity of Zombie Jesus, or point out that the Mormon magical underwear was just silly? Did they cite conflicting verses of the Bible, or run a tally of how many people God killed in the Old Testament? Maybe show chanting kooks at soldier's funerals or members of the Taliban beheading some infidel?
Of course not.
What they did was say this: "Don't believe in God? You are not alone."
And then give the name of the group sponsoring the ads: Iowa Atheist and Free Thinkers. Here's their comment on the whole absurd thing:
Duane Blake is a Bishop in the Upland, CA 1st Ward of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). He wrote a letter to the editor of the Bay Area's Contra-Costa Times, bemoaning the awful atheists trying to force all of the peaceful, persecuted Christians in America to "the religion of atheism" - by "removing God" from our government buildings, and from our society.
Notwithstanding the ludicrous notion that the absence of the word "GOD" equal "atheism" (Author's note: it doesn't. -Brent), and granting for the sake of argument the religionists assertions about this invisible god-thing, how the heck are us evil atheists supposed to "remove" a supposedly supreme magical being from anything - let alone an entire society? That doesn't make any sense even if we suspend our disbelief enough to look at it from their point of view! Preposterous!
The good Bishop says:
[link] In the great effort by many to remove God from our society they are, by default, forcing us into their belief system as an atheistic society.
There is just so much wrong here. I'll have to break it down into smaller chunks.
In the great effort by many to remove God from our society...
Where exactly is this "great effort" Bishop? Who are the "many" that you refer to? Yes, there are a few court cases a year where the Freedom From Religion Foundation, or the ACLU will sue a small city government, or a state government to stop what they believe to be gross violations of the United States constitution - specifically in reference to the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
But, "great effort"? "Many"? Please. You outnumber us nearly 9 to 1. Some of us try and address the worst civil rights and Constitutional violations in courts across the country. Yes, those cases get a lot of press because Christians are shocked - shocked I tell you! - that those uppity atheists would have the unmitigated gall to call them out for their bigotry and their dangerously theocratic, unconstitutional actions.
You also mention "removing God". This begs the question; which "God" are you referring to? Yours? Why does your particular flavor of magical man in the sky get such a prominent place on our buildings, our money, our Pledge of Allegiance, and in the speeches given by our politicians - despite the very clear concept of the separation of church and state being outlined in the First Amendment, then bolstered with 230 years of SCOTUS opinion and precedent?
...they are, by default, forcing us into their belief system as an atheistic society.
How does NOT engraving your deity's name on every new piece of masonry on government buildings at the taxpayers expense (many of whom are NOT CHRISTIAN) equal "forcing" citizens into "the religion of atheism"? How does NOT seeing "GOD" plastered all over everything strip you of your beliefs? Are your beliefs so weak that they must be constantly nurtured, and lovingly protected from criticism and - uh, absence on government buildings lest they dissapear in an instant like a soap bubble?
Goodness! What frail, delicate flowers you religious folks are! Your beliefs, so easily swept away by the cruel notion of government neutrality.
You know, the one outlined by our Constitution? The First Amendment? Heard of it before?
And just so you know, I could devote an entire post to that one stupidly willful misconception that religious folks LOVE to make. There is no excuse for an intelligent, grown adult human being to make a mistake of this nature. The phrase "religion of atheism" is something only an idiot, a religious conservative with a political axe to grind with atheists, or a very young child would say. Which are you Bishop? Let me guess.
The Onion's overarching schtick this week involves the idea that they've been sold to a Chinese company so all the stories have a new editorial slant.
There's one article that I found particularly amusing that's titled Weakling President Asks Imaginary Man In Sky To Bless Nation.
WASHINGTON—In a display of weakness unbecoming a head of state, President Barack Obama concluded remarks to his nation Tuesday by asking a pretend man who lives in the clouds to watch over and guide the United States.
It gets better :)
STANBUL (Reuters) – What happens when you put a Muslim imam, a Christian priest, a rabbi and a Buddhist monk in a room with 10 atheists?
Turkish television station Kanal T hopes the answer is a ratings success as it prepares to launch a gameshow where spiritual guides from the four faiths will seek to convert a group of non-believers.
The prize for converts will be a pilgrimage to a holy site of their chosen religion -- Mecca for Muslims, the Vatican for Christians, Jerusalem for Jews and Tibet for Buddhists.
Hmm . . . no, I can't see where someone would lie about being either an atheist to begin with, or about their "conversion", just to get a free trip out of the deal (not to mention the fame from being on TV). Nope, can't see that happening at all.
HT to ML for the story.
Most recent pet peeve: Referring to someone as an "avowed" atheist. Unless there's some special atheist vow out there that you have to take before you can be considered an atheist, there's not a lot of reason to use that label.
Perhaps it's meant more in the context of I vow that I'm an atheist. This doesn't make much sense either. Why would you need to vow that you're an atheist?
"Hey Frank, what religion are you?"
"None. I'm an atheist."
"Really? Huh. Um...really, dude? I don't know..."
"No, seriously, I swear dude!"
Or perhaps it's meant as I'll be an atheist for the rest of my life. This would make a little bit more sense, then. But it seems like you could get away with the cliched "ardent atheist" or "staunch atheist" titles, instead of resorting to this confusing "avowed atheist" label.
It's almost as bad as "fundamentalist atheist" (What fundamentals!?)
That is all. Carry on.
There is some contention within even the skeptic community as to whether or not agnostics are fence sitters and afraid to take sides......or whether atheists are too regimented or harsh in their non-belief and way of thinking.
Some atheists chide agnostics for not taking a more solid stand and for being as they say, "wishy washy." I have often alternately called myself an atheist and an agnostic. Why? Because frankly, I don't have any idea. I cannot prove there isn't some sort of God or supernatural being and in turn, believers cannot prove that there is one. I do not feel I need to prove that something doesn't exist.....it is up to the believers to prove that it does. I guess you could say I am not only a skeptic but I am skeptical of skeptics who say they know for certain. Sorry, NO ONE KNOWS.
You would think that most would say that the proposed blasphemy law in Ireland is a bad idea.
Well, you would be wrong.
[link] In the interests of rationality and common sense, the legislation should go further and label atheism a thought crime.
A couple of weeks ago, someone at the Vatican really stuck it to the atheists and their little bus campaign, and the wound still stings. Per Reuters, under the headline "Advertising Drive for Atheism Is Mocked":
“We should almost thank the people who promoted that advertising campaign. It has served God’s cause more than so many of our apologetic arguments,” said the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa . . . "It has demonstrated the poverty of their reasons and has helped stir so many sleeping consciences."
Gah! What a wound is this!
[*Performs melodramatic, gasping death scene*]
But seriously, this is a little bit sad when you consider that even this representative of the HQ of the Catholic Church has to admit that a bus ad about nonbelief does a better job of "serving God's purposes" than his own institution.
I just want to point you folks to a new newsweek article. I read it and was a little blown away by the middle ground that the article takes.
*** edited to add. I think this is a good article and positive press for non-theists.
You can see it here.
Things are getting really scary in Texas. I'm not kidding. Something is bubbling in the Lone Star State, and it has the stink of 100 percent pure crazy.
First, science communicator Bill Nye was booed during a lecture in Waco for insisting that the Moon reflected light from the Sun. Then we have Chuck Norris advocating for secession and installing himself as president of Texas, presumably as part of Glenn Beck's lunatic "let's bring back the utter terror we all felt after 9/11" faux-movement ("We surround them" he assures his nitwit followers).
But you already knew about that, right?
Tonight I discovered a couple more things that scared the hell out of me. This post will cover the first, because I don't want to give anyone any ulcers.